Bodies Without Humanity: Remembering Trayvon Martin

I first heard of Trayvon Martin’s murder in a tweeted video clip. I followed the story, admittedly neglecting a few of my classes to pursue my interests in the case, through news articles, discussion panels, and more online video clips.

I remember thinking as I made my way through the news coverage, why aren’t we unified as a country on this issue? As this video clip from The Daily Beast discusses, “where’s the outrage?” I would revise this statement to: “where’s the unified outrage?” Because there was a public outcry, and from every direction. There were protests, one in particular was dubbed the ” million hoodie march” as participants assembled in NYC’s Union Square on March 22 to show their solidarity with Trayvon Martin. But there was also a response from another direction, that this public reaction was an overreaction, that George Zimmerman wasn’t a racist, couldn’t be a racist because he is a Hispanic American, or that Americans were simply being sensitive.

Scholars discuss Trayvon Martin’s murder in their response to Karla FC Holloway’s new book, Private Bodies, Public Texts: Race, Gender, and a Cultural Bioethics

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Racial Inequality in Schools: Review of the Premiere of “40 Years Later: Now Can We Talk?”

Last Thursday, September 13, Barnard College hosted the premiere of 40 Years Later: Now Can We Talk?, a film directed by Markie Hancock and produced by Lee Anne Bell, the Director of Education as Barnard College. Both of these women, joined by Fern Khan, Monica Miller, and Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz discussed the film and its implications. 40 Years Later is a documentary about South Panola High School in Batesville, Mississippi, and the first black students to be integrated into the historically all-white school. In 2005, black alumni of South Panola were invited to their fortieth high school reunion for the first time, prompting not only this film, but also important interracial dialogue about the experiences of black students who were the first to join white schools. In the film, black and white alumni of the school back for their reunion were prompted by the filmmakers to gather and discuss, both separately and then all together, the effects racial integration had on their high school lives.

High school yearbook photos of 3 students, two white and one black, dressed up for these portraits

The important and often ignored fact that 40 Years Later sheds a powerful light on is the immense difficulties black students faced when they were integrated into white schools. As we know, educational integration never meant mixing black and white schools, but rather, allowing black students to attend higher quality white schools. No white students had to be removed from the comfort of a familiar community and placed into an environment of racial discrimination and harassment, but that is just what these black students went through. In the film, the now middle aged black alumni, who are lauded as pioneers of educational integration, discuss on screen the day to day harassment they experienced (as well as exclusion from extra-curricular activities, lower academic expectations and social isolation), from both fellow students and teachers.

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‘Post-Civil Rights Era’ Gender Discrimination

As a volunteer for BCRW this summer, Dana Freshley explored BCRW’s publications. In this post, she summarizes some of the central issues in BCRW’s second New Feminist Solutions report.

two professors in academic regalia walk on a university campusBCRW’s New Feminist Solutions report, Women, Work, and the Academy explains that gender discrimination did not disappear with the civil rights movement. The many protests in the 1960s and the passage of the law that prohibits sex discrimination in education did move mountains, but now gender discrimination exists in a different form – it’s in everyday interactions, according to Alison Wylie, feminist scholar at the University of Washington.

Daily decisions made in the workplace, no matter how small, contribute to the overall problem of gender discrimination. Although there have been dramatic increases to the amount of women in academia, women are still the minority in leadership positions. In this New Feminist Solutions report (PDF), Wylie says, “women continue to be under-represented at senior levels of the professoriate, especially in graduate training institutions; they continue to be disproportionally employed in part-time and non-tenure-stream positions; and they continue to be under compensated relative to their male counterparts.” Several universities have tried to address this problem with targeted hiring, but some argue that these efforts leave many women in academia wondering if they attained certain prizes or positions just because of their gender.

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Upcoming Event: Digital Community Formation

BCRW is excited to kick off our Digital Impact Series on Tuesday October 9th, with the Digital Community Formation Roundtable. We’re bringing together several academics, bloggers, and journalists – including Jon Beller, Brittney Cooper, Gail Drakes, Dana Goldstein, Renina Jarmon, and Courtney Martin – to talk about what they think about digital community, how they build it, and what kind of impact it has on their work.

picture of a network of nodes and links

As an exercise in our own use of digital networks and platforms, below are some quotes from the speakers to give you a glimpse of where they’re coming from.

And we’re asking you to leave your thoughts on digital community, and the questions you’d like the speakers to address, in the comments.

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Domestic Workers Rights Are Women’s Rights

This post originally appeared on the Ms. Magazine blog, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) has a big decision to make for the cause of women’s rights.  On his desk at the moment is a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights that recently passed both houses of the California legislature.  The bill only needs Gov. Brown’s signature to become law; if he doesn’t sign it before September 30, it automatically becomes law.

The Bill of Rights–Assembly Bill 889 [PDF]–guarantees domestic workers overtime pay and lunch and rest breaks, and assures live-in workers that will be allowed sufficient sleep in adequate conditions. The Bill covers nannies, housekeepers and caregivers employed by private agencies, as well as those hired by individual families.

Protesters at a rally for domestic workers rights

The provisions of the bill are hardly radical. They are rights that many of us wouldn’t think twice about.  Of course, people deserve the right to eat lunch and should have the right to a full night’s rest. Why are we even talking about this?

Because these basic rights are routinely denied to household workers.

Domestic work, an occupation historically made up of African American and immigrant women, was excluded from the labor protections afforded to most workers in the 1930s: Social Security, unemployment, a minimum wage and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Although they now have access to Social security and minimum wage, domestic workers are still a vulnerable workforce.

Today, there are overwhelmingly poor immigrant women of color who engage in the devalued work of cooking, cleaning and caring that enables households to function.  Many don’t think of that as “real” work. Moreover, domestics work in the privacy of the home, are sometimes undocumented, aren’t always aware of their rights and are subject to the whims of their employers.  It is particularly difficult for household workers to organize because they are isolated from each other, and it is very easy for employers to replace them if they express even an ounce of dissatisfaction.

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Paradise on Earth: Shulamith Firestone and the Legacy of Reproductive Technologies

Last week, feminist visionary Shulamith Firestone, author of The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, died at the age of 67. As Sarah Franklin discussed in her essay “Transbiology: A Feminist Cultural Account of Being After IVF”:

Firestone is of course famous, or infamous, for her advocacy of new reproductive technologies as a means of freeing women from the tyranny of biology by liberating them from pregnancy. For this prediction, her 1970 publication The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution has long drawn regret and vitriol from critics accusing its author of all manner of folly—from technological determinism and biological essentialism to sheer naïveté.

Shulamith Firestone
Franklin’s article, arising out of the 2009 Scholar & Feminist Conference The Politics of Reproduction: New Technologies of Life, explores Firestone’s “utopian faith in technological progress” and reviews the swirling controversies within feminism around the appropriate role of technology in reproduction. These concerns remain very much present in contemporary discourse—The Scholar & Feminist Online issue “Critical Conceptions,” in which Franklin’s essay appears, further explores the complicated landscape of reproductive technology, and legal scholar Dorothy Roberts’ 2012 Helen Pond McIntyre lecture on “Race, Gender, and the New Biocitizen,” will also take up the ways in which technological advances in reproductive medicine can further inequality.
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